Jailed-immigrant release aborted

Homeland Dept. eyes Carrboro case

Staff WriterMarch 4, 2007 

A legal motion filed last week was good news for a Carrboro woman facing deportation to her native Iran, but not good enough to get her released from jail Saturday.

In a motion filed Wednesday, the Homeland Security Department asked the Department of Justice to reopen the case of Sima Fallahi, 48, who was taken into custody three months ago when she applied for a business permit and a background check found she was wanted for overstaying a visa.

The couple caring for Fallahi's daughter, Leila, said Fallahi was almost released from the Mecklenburg County jail Saturday.

Kathleen Barton and Bob Wright got six automated phone calls from the jail beginning at 5:45 a.m. Saturday saying Fallahi had been released, they said Saturday evening.

Around 10 a.m., Fallahi called the couple. She said jailers had awakened her at 4:30 a.m. and told her to pack her belongings. Then she was kept waiting four hours, only to be told to go back to her cell because plans had changed.

"She was devastated," Barton said.

Jail officials could not be reached Saturday night.

Fallahi may still get out this week, according to her attorneys.

"Chances are extremely high that the judge will grant the motion," they wrote in an e-mail message that Barton and Wright sent to supporters Saturday.

Her lawyers maintain that a former attorney advised Fallahi to skip an asylum hearing in August 2001. They've filed a more than 200-page motion to have her asylum case heard in court.

If deported, Fallahi fears she will be imprisoned or even killed by Muslim fundamentalists for having an out-of-wedlock child, especially with a non-Muslim.

Staff writer Mark Schultz can be reached at 932-2003 or mark.schultz@newsobserver.com.

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